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Atlas 5 launch of Cygnus cargo tug rescheduled

ULA technicians monitor the progress as the payload fairing containing the Orbital ATK Cygnus pressurized cargo module is lowered onto the Centaur upper stage of the Atlas 5 rocket scheduled to launch Cygnus to the ISS on April 18. Credit: ULA

United Launch Alliance has rescheduled an Atlas 5 launch of a Cygnus cargo spacecraft for April 18.

ULA announced Monday that it has developed a plan to resolve a hydraulics issue with the Atlas 5 booster that postponed the launch from late March.

The mission, designated OA-7, will transport several tons of cargo to the International Space Station. [Florida Today]

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Continued launch delays in French Guiana have led one waiting spacecraft to return to Europe. The Eutelsat-172b, built by Airbus Defence and Space, arrived in French Guiana March 20 but never left the airport because of ongoing protests there that have suspended operations at the Kourou spaceport. Airbus and Eutelsat decided to send the spacecraft back to Europe late last week while awaiting a revised launch schedule. Efforts by French government officials to broker a deal with protest leaders have failed so far, making it unclear when launches can resume. [SpaceNews]

NOAA is looking at how it can make more use of commercial and international satellite data in response to proposals to reduce funding for its own future weather satellite programs. The White House’s 2018 budget request, while funding continued work on GOES and initial JPSS satellites, planned to seek “annual savings” from the Polar Follow On program of later JPSS satellites. NOAA’s Steven Volz said Monday that the agency is looking at various ways to deal with the reduced budget, which could, in the long term, include more use of data from commercial satellites and those from other countries. [SpaceNews]

NASA is considering a series of spacewalks to repair an experiment mounted on the International Space Station. Two of the four pumps in the cooling system of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) have malfunctioned, with another showing signs of problems. NASA is studying a series of spacewalks to replace the pumps, a challenge given that the AMS was not designed to be serviced by astronauts. The spacewalks, which would take place in 2018, could extend the life of the AMS through 2024, allowing it to collect data needed to help scientists understand the origin of dark matter and antimatter. [Ars Technica]

The chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee says reforming acquisition is critical to fighting and winning a war in space. In an interview, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said that acquisition reform is a key priority for him, including looking for ways to remove people in the current process who have the ability to slow or stop acquisitions. He said he did not support the creation of a dedicated space acquisitions office but expects that, eventually, there will be a “Space Force” independent of the Air Force. [SpaceNews]

One company is proposing space platforms that could both track and clean up debris. Launchspace Technologies is proposing to develop Debris Collection Units in low Earth orbit that could collect debris ranging in size from 1 millimeter to 5 centimeters. The platforms, each as large as a football field, could also track debris better than ground-based assets. The company envisions developing these systems as public-private partnerships, and has retained Robert Walker to promote the concept with policymakers. [SpaceNews]

There is a proliferation of other ideas to keep track of orbital debris. Ball Aerospace has developed Proximity Operations and Rendering (PROXOR), a simulation tool to test how ground- or space-based sensors can track debris. Cosmic Advanced Engineering Solutions is testing ways to measure the distance to, and the orbits of, satellites by observing their sunglint. [SpaceNews]

One of the highlights of this year’s Space Symposium is Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle. The company has on display outside the Broadmoor the propulsion module that flew five suborbital spaceflights from November 2015 to October 2016. Also on display is a model of the crew capsule for New Shepard, showing off the interior customers will experience on future suborbital space tourism flights. [SpaceNews]

The same technology used by thrill-seeking tourists could also save the lives of future astronauts. Boeing and United Launch Alliance announced they have installed a zipline system to serve as the Emergency Egress System on the crew access tower at Cape Canaveral’s Pad 41, which will host Atlas 5 launches of Boeing’s CST-100 commercial crew vehicle. The zipline, based on similar systems used in mountain resorts and parks, will allow astronauts and pad workers to escape in the event of an emergency during launch preparations. [SpaceNews]

The West Virginia legislature honored a Hidden Figure Monday. The state Senate and House passed resolutions declaring Aug. 26 as “Katherine Johnson Day” in the state. Johnson, now 98, was born in West Virginia and later worked as a mathematician for NASA, supporting the agency’s early manned spaceflights. Her role gained recognition in the book and movie Hidden Figures. The legislature also asked Congress to rename NASA’s Independent Verification and Validation facility in Fairmont, West Virginia, after Johnson. [West Virginia MetroNews]

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Atlas 5 launch of Cygnus cargo tug rescheduled

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